Warning: This story contains a threesome
Issy contemplated where to go, chewing on his bottom lip as he sat at the bar drinking gin. He shivered in the damp cold, miserably conceding that while there must be someone who could help Orson, he did not know who that person might be. He wished Orson would do something about it—something beyond throwing him out and attempting to deal with the blackmailer alone.
Sometimes, the damn man really was too much like the bloody books he read and studied.
It had never troubled Issy before that he was only a humble tailor, taking up with one of the most popular professors in the city. But right then and there, he wished he were a lord or some such, and had the resources to help. Tailors were woefully inadequate assistance when it came to matters such as blackmail.
He finished his gin and set a few coins on the bar, then pulled up the collar of his wool coat and tugged his flat cap back down over his head. Outside, he walked slowly back to his own shop, and the rooms above it he almost never saw anymore. He ached to turn around and go instead to Orson’s home, but Orson had refused him admittance for the past three days and he only knew Orson was being blackmailed and feared for Issy’s safety because Orson’s butler had told him.
Damn Orson, anyway. Issy should be with him, even if it was a bloody miracle that such a wonderful and powerful man wanted a humble tailor as his lover. He could scarcely believe it sometimes, especially given that everyone knew Orson had once been lovers with the second most powerful fire mage in the city—
Issy stopped in the middle of the street. Mage Abel, of course! He could help. Why was Orson not contacting Abel himself? But of course he knew the answer to that. Whatever Orson said, his feelings for his former lover were not entirely extinguished. He would never risk hurting Issy in any way by having anything to do with Abel now, even when he most needed help.
Bollocks to that.
Smiling, because he had a plan—even if ‘knock on the door and beg for help’ was not much of one, it was better than nothing—he turned around and strode back the way he had come, then cut right, heading for the mage district of the city.
Only as he knocked on the door did it occur to him that this was not Orson’s home, and he would probably have the door slammed in his face. The door was opened shortly after he knocked, by a man who could have passed for a gargoyle. Normally, he would have quailed, stammered—but this was for Orson and maybe Orson’s only chance. Doffing his hat, Issy looked the stony butler in the eyes and said, “I am here to see Mage Abel about a gloomy mutual acquaintance of ours; the situation is quite dire.”
“Wait here,” the butler intoned, and close the door sharply in his face.
Issy clutched at his hat, a gift from Orson, waiting anxiously. Just as he was beginning to think he had been abandoned or forgotten, the door swung open again and the butler said, “This way.” Issy followed him through beautifully appointed halls to an enormous library—and the most beautiful man he had ever seen reclining on the larges sofa by an impressive fireplace. He loved Orson with all his might, and Orson suffered no lack in regards to appearance, but this man was breathtaking.
The door closed behind him with a soft click, but Issy barely noticed, captivated despite himself by the burnished red-gold curls, the long, broad body, and the genuine smile brightening the man’s beautiful, elegant face. “Well, well. I had heard rumors of ol’ Ory taking up with a tailor. Now I see why. Would you care for a drink, poppet?” He waved his own glass.
“No-no, thank you, my lord,” Issy said, flushing. He had not been this nervous since the day he had met Orson.
“Mm,” Abel said, and set his drink aside. “No need to be nervous around me, poppet. What brings Ory’s new lover to the house of his former, bearing news of dire straits?” Something about the way he said the words, the way what was clearly his old nickname for Orson was said with such warmth…such affection…it was clear that Abel still cared for Orson.
Issy wondered suddenly if his bright idea would perhaps lose him Orson anyway. He could hardly compete with someone so beautiful and sensual, never mind the integrity of a man who would help a former lover at the request of his replacement. There was also the fact that socially, Abel was Orson’s equal.
But, Issy thought, he would be able to live with it so long as Orson was safe and happy. It only made him sad he would not be part of it. “He’s being blackmailed,” he finally said. “I don’t know more than that; it was all the butler could tell me. Orson has refused to see me for the past three days. He will let no one in, for any reason. He will not speak to me.”
“For your own good,” Abel said, annoyance overtaking his face. “He always did do everything for everyone else’s good, regardless of their thoughts and feelings on the matter. It is good to know he has at least taken up with someone who has the sense not to leave him to wallow in his own stupidity and misery. You are far smarter than me, poppet.” Standing, he strode across the room and draped an arm across Issy’s shoulders, dragging him over to the sofa. “I have been remiss; what is your name?”
“Issy—um. That is, Isabel Wellington, my lord. I’ve a shop on Black Street.”
“I see,” Abel murmured, and Issy felt the absolute worst sort of wretch for the way that low voice made him shiver, the way he wanted to move closer, inhale more of Abel’s spicy cologne and the deeper, warmer male scent of him.
Why in the seven hells had Orson ended relations with someone so bloody perfect? “Have a seat, enjoy the food I took the liberty of ordering the kitchen to prepare for you. It should be ready shortly.” Abel picked up his abandoned glass and thrust it into Issy’s hands. “Drink that. I will be back in a few hours with our idiot—” He stopped, then shook his head and smiled ruefully. “My apologies. With your idiot.”
“Why did he—” Issy stopped, flushing. “I’m sorry, my lord. It is none of my business.”
But Abel only smiled and said, “Why did he end our affair? Because he thought it was what was best for me. It is true that if I had stayed with him, I probably would not have pursued the course of study that I did. The idiot never asked me what I wanted, merely did what he thought was best for me. But the important point is that I let him, instead of ignoring the bloody fool as I should have. Obviously you have more sense than me.” He leaned down and kissed Issy’s cheek. “You are also prettier by far, poppet. Please do enjoy my home while I am gone. I will return shortly with your idiot professor.”
Shortly proved to be several hours, as Issy woke up to the sound of the clock chiming midnight and soft, muffled voices in the hallway. He sat up slowly, fumbling with his hair, spilling loose around his shoulders and where the devil had his ribbon gone? He looked up, toward the voices, to see Orson and Abel standing in the hallway. Seeing Orson after three days almost had him shaking with relief.
He wanted nothing more than to leap from the couch and run over there and just hold him. But he was stopped by just how damn beautiful Orson and Abel looked together. Orson with his dark, brooding look, hair just touched silver, willowy and slender, Abel all golden and bright, broad and tall.
And he just a humble, plain tailor, and even though he knew without a doubt that Orson loved him—
He had loved Abel first, and clearly loved him still, and how could Issy bear to stand between them? Especially watching the way Abel smiled softly, and Orson smiled back in a way he seldom smiled at anyone, and the longing so apparent between them it was the most beautiful and painful thing Issy had ever seen.
Swallowing, he righted his clothes and stood up, silently praying for the strength to end this gracefully, and walk away with his dignity if he must leave his heart behind. His movements caught Orson’s eye, and his happy, sheepish smile was so familiar and needed that Issy could only star for a moment. He did not fight it as Orson swept him up, held him close—and he thought he was entitled to the breathtaking kiss that immediately followed. “I’m glad you’re all right,” Issy said quietly. “Is everything taken care of now?”
“Yes,” Abel said where he leaned in the doorway, face carefully absent of any expression. “I dealt with the matter. There will be no more blackmail. As I am certain you are tired, you are welcome to stay the night here. Perhaps you will join me for breakfast?”
Stepping away from Orson and shaking his head was the hardest thing Issy had ever done. “I should go. Thank you, my lord, for helping. I bid you both farewell.”
“What—” Hurt and confusion crossed Orson’s face, but Issy refused to bend.
But he did not get past Abel, who caught him up, spun him around, holding fast to his arms as he pressed Issy’s backside up against him, holding him fast in place. Issy’s traitorous mind could not help wondering briefly how it would feel if there were no clothes between them, and really, how could he think such a thing?
“Issy,” Orson said softly, cupping his face. “Why are you trying to leave me, when you went to all this trouble to help me despite the fact I did not deserve it?”
For a moment, Issy could not speak. It was breaking his heart to leave, why did they have to prolong the agony? “You two are not over each other. How am I supposed to stand in the way of that?”
Abel tensed behind him, as Orson looked at him, surprise and guilt flashing across his face. But then Abel chuckled, nuzzled against Issy’s hair. “As I said before, you are clearly the smart one, in addition to being the pretty one.”
“You should just let me go,” Issy said. “I’m only a tailor. Lord Abel—” He was cut off as Orson kissed him hard, leaving his lips bruised and throbbing when Orson finally pulled away.
“How could you think I would do that to you, Issy? I should never have pushed you away.” His mouth twisted. “Either of you.”
“Then here is your chance to take us both back,” Abel said.
Chuckling, Abel let go of Issy’s arm to slide his hand across Issy’s stomach, caressing, a trifle possessive, wholly inappropriate—and yet Issy could not make himself move away, could not help but notice that Orson did not seem angry that Abel held him so. “Why not?” Abel asked. He’s lovely, and sweet, and smarter than both of us. You’re so bloody stubborn and stupid, Ory, maybe two lovers can keep you in check where one could not. You love us both, he’s right about that. He’s also right that I never stopped loving you.”
Orson shook his head, “Three? You were always the brazen one, Abel, but really…”
“So why can’t we try? That seems a better move than letting him walk away, or leaving me here alone in my library. If it doesn’t work, well, at least we’ll have tried. I walked away from you without a fight once, Ory. I won’t do it a second time. And I would hate to break the pretty poppet’s heart. He’s truly lovely.”
Orson smiled faintly, eyes tracing up and down Issy with fondness and a touch of heat. “Yes, he is. I was first impressed with the quality of his stitches. The quality of the man is finer still.”
Issy flushed. “You can’t mean—”
“Oh, but I do, poppet,” Abel murmured. “I will have you charmed to the idea in a matter of days, and be fucking you while Ory watches in a matter of weeks.”
Orson made a rough, strangled noise, then said hoarsely, “Days for that, too.” He shook himself. “Unless Issy objects.”
“He won’t,” Abel murmured.
Issy shook his head, not quite able to form words, undone by the combination of Abel’s hot, husky voice and the hungry, hopeful look on Orson’s face. Could this work? Was he really stupid and crazy enough—
But yes, he was, because he did not want to walk away. He wanted it all, wanted them both. He wanted to know Abel better, wanted never to leave Orson again. “I—I say we sleep on it,” he finally managed. “If this idea still appeals over breakfast, then we try.”
“Pretty and smart, just as I said,” Abel said, and let him go—then grabbed him and turned him around, and stole a long, thorough kiss, setting Issy’s sore lips to throbbing again. He really could not bring himself to mind.
Then Abel reached out and yanked Orson close, and Issy hadn’t been sure what he would think about seeing—
But he couldn’t really think at all, just stare wide-eyed and make soft, whimpering noises, clothes too hot, too tight, and they really were so fucking beautiful. If he was being given a chance to stay and see that for a long time to come, then he would do whatever he must to make it work.
Abel withdrew, looking smug and happy. “Your room should be prepared, my dears. I will see you at breakfast.”
“At breakfast,” Issy agreed, Orson nodding beside him, and the way they all smiled at each other, he thought it would be a grand breakfast indeed.